Gospel: Luke 5: 1 – 11
On January 6, 2001, Pope, now Saint, John Paul II issued an Apostolic Letter entitled Novo Millenio Ineunte. He wrote this letter at the end of the Jubillee Year, 2000 and the beginning of a new millennium. Here we are fifteen years later celebrating the Extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy. The Gospel for this Sunday reminds me of Saint John Paul’s Letter because his primary scriptural reference is the instruction that Jesus gave to the Apostles. This was the passage that Saint John Paul saw as important for us in beginning the new millennium.
Peter, Andrew, James and John were fisherman. They knew where and how to fish, and like so many fisherman that knowledge doesn’t always mean success. On that particular day they caught nothing. When they came to shore Jesus got in Simon’s boats and asked them to go a short distance from the shore where he began to teach the crowds. When he finished his instruction he told the apostles to, “Put out into the deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Here we have Jesus the Carpenter telling the fishermen where to fish. They listened to Jesus and we are told that they caught a great number of fish. This great catch moved Peter to fall on his knees to tell Jesus that he is a sinner and not worthy to be in his presence. Jesus’ response to this was one that we hear from him so often, “do not be afraid.” He then told them that they were now fishers of men.
The apostles show us the virtues of humility and faith. After their unsuccessful day they had the humility to do what Jesus asked them, and to take him out so as to teach from the boat. The passage gives the indication that they were tired and wanted to clean up their nets and boats. They humbly put their plan aside and let Jesus use their boat as a pulpit. When Jesus told them to go out and cast their nets, Peter told Jesus they just spent the day fishing and caught nothing, but he ends by telling Jesus that because Jesus said to do it, they would lower their nets. They had faith to do what Jesus told them. They then accepted the charge to become fishers of men. A call they accepted without special knowledge or training about preaching or evangelization, but they had faith that if they continued to follow Jesus he would show them the way. They grew in faith, courage and ability as they continued the journey, experienced the Cross, Resurrection and Pentecost. They journeyed from the deep of the Sea of Galilee to the deep of the world with all its’ challenges and uncertainties.
At the beginning of this millennium St. John Paul told the church of our need to imitate the apostles in going out into the deep of our world and proclaiming the Gospel. It was a call to be part of the New Evangelization of the world. This call did not end in 2001, it is a call for the millennium. We have 984 more years to go, and Pope Francis now tells us to continue this journey by going out into the deep with God’s mercy. He calls us to experience God’s mercy in a personal way, and to extend the mercy to those around us. This takes faith in God’s love, and the humility to forgive others. May we have the humility and faith to accept this great gift from God and to truly extend to others.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.